Two projects in the Roanoke and New River valleys — one to foster blockchain technology and the other to develop regional hubs to connect talent at Virginia Tech with employers — have received more than $500,000 in state grants.

The funding was approved by the GO Virginia board, created in 2017 to spur private sector growth and high-wage jobs to revitalize a state economy hampered by cutbacks in defense and other federal spending.

“GO Virginia is fostering regional collaboration among business, education, and government leaders and supporting the implementation of innovative approaches to meet their workforce and economic development needs and address structural barriers that may impede regional growth,” Gov. Ralph Northam said an announcement Wednesday of the grants.

Working with nine regional councils, the initiative has supported 65 projects statewide with more than $33 million in funding.

Two of five grants approved this week were for Region 2, which covers a broad swath from Appomattox to the New River Valley and north to the Alleghany Highlands.

Both projects will be administered by Tech. In the first, the university will use $246,800 in state money, combined with $250,000 in matching funds, to develop and implement a program to encourage entrepreneurship and commercialization of blockchain technologies.

Blockchains are digital ledgers maintained by a massive network of users to store information and manage transactions online in new ways. Although the cryptocurrency Bitcoin is perhaps the best known form of the technology, developers are continuing to find new uses.

The so-called Blockchain Ecosystem Catalyst funded by GO Virginia will take a regional approach in promoting the technology.

Participating localities include the city of Roanoke, the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, and the counties of Montgomery, Pulaski and Roanoke.

In the second Region 2 project to be funded this week, $300,000 will go to Tech’s Office of Career and Professional Development to develop regional hubs to connect local employers, students, faculty and economic development officials. Through an internship program, the goal is to pipeline talent from Tech to regional employers.

Participating localities are the cities of Salem and Radford, the town of Vinton and the counties of Botetourt, Floyd, Giles, Montgomery and Roanoke.

Under the GO Virginia initiative, applicants for funding must first receive approval from regional councils, and secure matching funds from local, federal and private sources.

In Region 2, a total of 15 projects have been approved so far. To date, all of the recommendations from the regional council have been approved by the state board, according to John Provo, director of Tech’s economic development office, which provides administrative support for the group.

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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